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#sowhoknew: Chinese entrepreneur Elaine Zhou on her path to success

Gender parity is 217 years away according to the World Economic Forum and the International Women’s Day is aiming to raise awareness of this inequality and encourage us all to try and bridge the delta.

I signed up for their #PressForProgress campaign a few weeks ago and my personal pledge was to celebrate female role models and their career journeys. Consequently, I decided to reach out to my network of female business leaders and entrepreneurs on LinkedIn to understand more about their own unique paths to success.

I spoke with 6 senior women who hold key positions in their respective industries or businesses either in the US, UK, Canada or China. Each of them provides a unique insight into how they established their careers, how they tackled gender bias and how they have ultimately succeeded. They all have very different, yet equally fascinating, stories to tell which are the embodiment of what the International Women’s Day is trying to achieve.

Today we have writer, speaker and campaigner for women in business, Elaine Zhou:

Based in Beijing, Elaine is a successful author, inspirational speaker and serial entrepreneur. Her book ‘You Can Create Your Life’ has an emphasis on conscious goal-setting, self-help, and spiritual devotion. She is a champion of the ‘Doing Business In China Program’ by conducting numerous workshops and speaking at various conferences about the topic. As co-founder of the ‘China Women Equipping Centre’ she is passionate about the role of women in business and has been regularly featured on Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC talking about female entrepreneurship. I asked Elaine if she believes there are any differences working as a woman in China by comparison to the the West?

“China’s economic growth creates greater opportunities for women but with endless opportunities, only some women can access them.

Culture values tend to keep women from becoming too successful in the workplace, people in China accept that women can “hold up half of the sky”, but when they go back home, they are still often asked by family and relatives about when they are going to stop working and find a man to settle down, or they should be focusing on family and kids. The role of women in China, women assumed a relatively subordinate position to men. Thus female working professionals are facing tremendous pressure from gender equality, increased competition, marriage and family, the transition from old family system to modern system in China.

Of its total population of 1.3 billion, women are 48.6% of China population. Therefore, the promotion of gender equality and the overall development of women is not only of great significance for China’s development, it also has a special influence on the efforts for the advancement of mankind and the whole world.

The purpose for China Women Equipping Center’s is to encourage women to participate in decision making and management or start a business. Also to build a system for women professionals to support one another, actively seeking higher education and continuous self-development to advance themselves with relevant skills.”

A huge thanks to all the inspirational thoughts provided by my interviewees. The common thread I can see amongst all these incredibly smart business leaders is that they all have unwavering determination, an innate self-confidence and an unrelenting persistence to succeed. Any aspiring entrepreneur or aspiring business leader, from either gender, can learn a lot from these ladies.

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.